Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Teen Drowned during School Swim and Nobody Noticed for 38 Minutes

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Teen Drowned during School Swim and Nobody Noticed for 38 Minutes

Article excerpt

Coroner recommends Quebec put swim classes on hold


MONTREAL - A Montreal teen who drowned during a high school gym class spent 38 minutes at the bottom of the pool without anyone noticing, a coroner's investigation has found.

Dr. Louis Normandin's report into the death last February of Blessing Claude Moukoko reveals a troubling lack of supervision.

"Blessing Claude Moukoko was left alone at the bottom of the pool ... and this, because there wasn't a lifeguard essentially dedicated to their function," Normandin wrote in the report made public Tuesday.

Like many of the 19 Ecole Pere-Marquette students in the class, Moukoko, 14, was just learning to swim. He was taking part in his third swim class as part of a high school gym course the morning of Feb. 15. He was last seen struggling to do the crawl, and no one noticed the Grade 8 student's absence when the class left the pool deck.

It was only when a second class arrived that they saw what they thought was a dummy at the bottom of the municipal pool, which is adjacent to the school in the city's Rosemont district.

The coroner described security video of the pool from that morning as unsettling. "People are walking around the pool deck, the water is calm, so calm in fact, they have the impression -- the students in the second course -- that they see a dummy in the bottom of the pool," he said at a news conference.

"The lifeguard understands, dives, calls for help."

Normandin recommended that any gym teacher giving swim lessons receive the training required by the province and that a lifeguard provide full-time surveillance during all courses.

If it isn't possible to have one person teaching and another keeping watch, Normandin recommended school swimming lessons be suspended.

"Nobody had ill intentions in this story," Normandin said. "However, the swimming course, in my opinion, must be given by those who are deemed competent. …

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